Creed III (2023) – Reel Review

Director: Michael B. Jordan | Runtime: 1h 56mins | Drama, Sport

Shortly after retiring Creed’s old friend Damian is released from jail, still hoping to fulfil his dreams of becoming a boxing champion. As he tries to help his friend Creed also tries to deal with the guilt of their troubled past together.

As a follow on from the Rocky films Creed allowed old characters to be put to bed and new ones to emerge with a more contemporary relevance. Now three films in, Adonis Creed is yet to find the iconism of Rocky Balboa but has carved his own path with a much more developed story while never losing that “against all odds” mantra that accompanies all sports movies. Creed III, which is the director debut of star Michael B. Jordan, is another interesting notch on the belt of the so-called “Creed-verse”. 

No longer the underdog and living in a post-retirement bliss, Adonis’ cushty life is quietly interrupted by his returning friend, Damian. As the film unravels and we learn more about Damian we also get to learn more about Adonis. It’s one of the reasons this character is far more eclectic and interesting than Rocky, who never really shakes the ‘underdog’ role, opting to explore the main character’s troubled childhood – creating a much bigger fight that exists outside of the ring.

While the film never escapes the metaphor of a boxer fighting his own inner demons, the things that Creed is fighting feel deep rooted enough to merit the tension built into the final fight. Most of what Creed is fighting is his own guilt for Damian’s imprisonment, but he’s also fighting his own stunted emotions – affecting his relationship with his wife and daughter. It’s in this exploration that you find the most surprising themes – a film about two alpha males beating the living daylights out of each other becoming an advocate for openness and verbalising pain. 

Boxing movies are yet to do better than Scorsese’s 1980 masterpiece in terms of in-ring filmmaking. But, While Creed III joins a long list of films still chasing the tail of Raging Bull, Jordan’s direction showcases his command as a filmmaker and the passion that goes into telling Adonis’ story. He, along with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, make sure you feel the crack of every jab and crunch of every punch – not just hitting home the physicality of the fights but the brutality of the fighters themselves.

As the film reaches its final fight between Adonis and his old friend the anticipation really takes shape. It’s a testament to the film that the build is so enticing, albeit predictable, but when it does finally reach its climax it seems to be over in a flash. It’s not quite a one round knockout and the sequences are eloquently put together, but for a film that is so good at building a genuine tension between its characters it’s final fight does leave you wanting more.

Despite its rapid ending though, Creed III is a fun and sometimes thoughtful film that does well despite being confined by its formula. Michael B. Jordan is in fine form both in front and behind the camera and, while nothing here is groundbreaking, Creed III goes a long way to establish the protagonist as something much more than a Rocky spin-off.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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